The captivating red algal species called Phymatolithon calcareum clumps together to shape habitats known as maerl beds in coastal areas across the northeastern region of the Atlantic, but researchers have found a pocket of the algae close to Cornwall in the UK which is genetically different from the rest of the area.
It received the nickname of “falgae” mainly thanks to its location in the Fal Estuary – a crowded waterway frequented by both naval and commercial ships that sail to and from the Falmouth port.
The maerl beds are significant habitats for multiple marine species, including coral reefs, and they have an essential role in the storage of carbon.
The researchers hope that the new findings will help them with insight regarding efforts to protect the beds from various threats.
Marine Biologist Tom Jenkins of the University of Exeter in the UK said:
“It appears that the unique diversity in the Fal Estuary has likely been shaped over time by geographical isolation of this maerl bed and a lack of genetic exchange with other P. calcareum populations,”
According to the team’s research, even the algae from the Manacles reef located only 13 kilometres (8 miles) away across Falmouth bay have a unique genetic make-up.
They relied on a whole-genome genotyping process to analyze the DNA from 12 separate maerl bed sites ranging from Norway to Portugal.
Genetic variations can be observed in various geographical areas, but it was only the Fal Estuary sample that was a unique genetic sample.
It doesn’t look like a hybrid of other types of algae either, at least according to the samples taken by the research team.